Last week we held our inaugural Old Master, British and European Pictures sale at Roseberys, and as usual, the auction was full of surprises. One trend which stood out was that bidders seemed to gravitate towards portraiture above all other genres, with several examples soaring far above their pre-sale estimates.

A highlight in the Old Masters section of the sale was lot 49, a small portrait of a laughing man, painted by an artist in the circle of Rembrandt van Rijn. 


Lot 49: Circle of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn,

Bust of a laughing young man


The small panel was thought to be an example of a ‘tronie’, a type of fictional portrait which artists often painted to study facial expressions. Considerable pre-sale interest and fast, competitive bidding on the day took the final price to £9,184 (including premium).

Another portrait in the earlier part of the sale which attracted competitive bidding on the day was the portrait of a young Elizabeth Folliott, attributed to the painter Sir Godfrey Kneller.


Lot 73: Attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller, 

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Folliott


The portrait, which had come from a private family collection, was presented in a contemporary frame, which may have contributed to the work’s striking presence. This work sold for a final price of £6,298.

Portraits in miniature proved popular too. One example which outperformed its pre-sale figures was a portrait of a lady by the artist Penelope Carwardine.


Lot 81: Penelope Carwardine, 

Portrait of a lady


A telephone bidder secured the miniature at a winning bid of £3,800, against its £500-700 estimate. The popularity of this portrait also seems to reflect the ongoing surge of interest in female artists, whose works have all too often been overlooked.

Victorian and early 20th century portraiture also attracted significant interest during the auction, with a wistful scene by the Scottish painter Thomas Walker Macbeth selling for £9,184 during the auction, more than tripling its £1,500-2,500 pre-sale estimate. The portrait was titled ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and likely depicted a character from the Thomas Hardy novel of the same name.


Lot 314: Robert Walker Macbeth, RA ROI RWS, 
Far from the Madding Crowd


Finally, two sweet and intimate family portraits by Philip de Laszlo soared to hammer prices of £14,000 and £11,000 respectively. The portraits showed the artist’s children and provided a rare glimpse into the painter’s family life.


Lot 317:Philip Alexius de László, PRBA,

Portrait of John Adolphus de László, the artist's son, in Scouts' uniform


Lot 318:  Philip Alexius de László, PRBA, 

The Artist's Children Blowing Bubbles